I feel confident that if I mention the placebo effect that we all basically understand what I’m talking about, right?

Okay, just in case, here’s the dictionary definition:

a beneficial effect produced by a placebo drug or treatment, which cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient’s belief in that treatment.

I’m not a medical expert, but as I understand it, placebos are used in drug trials with a control group, right? There’s a group that receives the actual medication and the results/side effects are recorded. Then there’s another group that get sugar pills believing they’re getting the real thing and the results/side effects are recorded. Is that how it basically works?

That’s how I’ve always understood it.

Or, in another way of thinking about it… I have a headache. I have no ibuprofen. A friend hands me a couple of Tic-Tacs, though I’m not aware they’re Tic-Tacs. He tells me it’s ibuprofen. I swallow them like pills. My headache goes away… even though I never took any genuine medication.

Mind power.

Fake pills aren’t the only placebos in the world. In fact, I’m certain there are many examples of placebos that exist in some form other than fake medication. But at the moment, I’m only thinking of one type.


No, not the kind that keep your shirt together. I’m talking about buttons that you push.

The first example of a placebo button can be found in my apartment building. I push it every time I get into my building’s elevator. It’s the DOOR CLOSE button. I push it once… nothing. I push it twice… nothing. I push it again… nothing. I push it repeatedly and… sure, the door eventually closes. I’m convinced that button only exists to make people think they can close the elevator door whenever they feel like it. I don’t think that button really does anything except make a clicking sound when it’s pressed.

Next is the button at the crosswalk. You walk up to the intersection and you need to cross the street. So you find that handy button that’s supposed to alert the traffic signals that a pedestrian is waiting to cross at the crosswalk. Some buttons are just pressed and time has to pass before the walk signal is given. Some of your fancier buttons come with a vocal warning telling you to WAIT when the button is pushed. My question is: wouldn’t pedestrians get the walk signal at some point without pushing the button anyway? Isn’t that just a natural part of the traffic signal cycle?

I’d be willing to bet there are other placebo buttons out there. I just can’t think of any at the moment. Truth is, I have a headache and those Tic-Tacs I took earlier aren’t doing a thing to help.

Can you think of any real world placebos that don’t come in pill form? Let me know down in the comments!


2 thoughts on “Placebos

  1. Ooh. You’ve hit on a topic that I have a lot of interest and passion for but you took a whole new turn on it. I love it.

    For me, the traditional placebo (sugar pill), is highly undervalued. It manages to cure my headache without any side effects! It’s the ideal cure. I’m a big believer in mind-body when it comes to dealing with chronic pain (which is primarily in the head anyway). It’s how I addressed over thee decades of migraine to eventually find some relief.

    But your point about buttons is hugely valid and made me laugh. I can just see you punishing the door close button on the elevator. Interestingly enough, I’ve observed that in China the “close door” button is very responsive. So I’ve come to the belief that the functionality is their but it’s been disabled in the US installations. Probably some bullshit safety regulation. Not sure.

    Thinking of buttons that don’t work, how about those “unsubscribe buttons” on all the junk mail? I’ve wasted hours trying to make a dent in my junk mail, but I’m almost certain it’s completely bogus.

    Liked by 2 people

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